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Excellence is a neo-colonial agenda...and what we can do about

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Slides from a keynote at the meeting 'Perspectives of Research Excellence in the Global South' - argues that considering research excellence as a neo-colonial agenda helps to defuse the dangers that a North Atlantic attitude to 'biblio-excellence' creates but also offers opportunities for developing and transitional countries to take a leadership role on the future of research policy

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Excellence is a neo-colonial agenda...and what we can do about

  1. 1. Excellence is a Neo-colonial Agenda @cameronneylon http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0068-716X Perspectives on Research Excellence in the Global South Johannesburg, 12 July 2018 …and what we can do about it
  2. 2. Excellence…
  3. 3. …is a Neo-colonial Agenda Excellence…
  4. 4. …is a Neo-colonial Agenda Excellence… …and what we can do about it
  5. 5. Excellence…
  6. 6. “[…a] commitment to excellence and advancement on merit” University College London
  7. 7. “[…a] commitment to excellence and advancement on merit” University College London
  8. 8. Pursuit of excellence: We strive for excellence, seeking to apply the highest standards to benefit… University of Queensland
  9. 9. …to strive for excellence and distinction… Curtin University
  10. 10. We prize excellence Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  11. 11. We demand excellence University of Westminster
  12. 12. …with world- class excellence across all of its departments Princeton
  13. 13. As a world-leading centre of academic excellence we aim… University of Edinburgh
  14. 14. The university counts the diversity of its community as […] integral to its mission of excellence, and it is committed to diversity and inclusiveness in both educational… University of Maryland
  15. 15. excellence in…?
  16. 16. excellence in professionally relevant teaching University of Westminster
  17. 17. excellence in research and education Indiana University
  18. 18. excellence in research, education and knowledge exchange Strathclyde University
  19. 19. excellence in teaching, research, and public engagement Cornell University
  20. 20. …a center of excellence for cultural, athletic and other events University of Toledo
  21. 21. How can we determine or measure… “excellence”?
  22. 22. We prize academic excellence at UC Davis. More than 500 of our faculty have earned prestigious [..] honors[..] rank[ings]. UC Davis
  23. 23. Pursuing excellence means being satisfied with no less than the highest goals we can envision. University of Missouri
  24. 24. Pursuing excellence involves being informed by regional, national and global standards, as well as our personal expectations. University of Missouri
  25. 25. “excellence” is the holy grail of academic life Michèle Lamont How Professors Think
  26. 26. excellence is produced and defined in a multitude of sites and by an array of actors Michèle Lamont How Professors Think
  27. 27. excellence is produced and defined in a multitude of sites and by an array of actors Michèle Lamont How Professors Think
  28. 28. excellence is produced and defined in a multitude of sites and by an array of actors Michèle Lamont How Professors Think
  29. 29. excellence is produced and defined in a multitude of sites and by an array of actors Michèle Lamont How Professors Think
  30. 30. “excellence” tells us nothing about how important the science is and everything about who decides. Jack Stilgoe Against Excellence
  31. 31. Using the word excellence is a way of avoiding a difficult conversation
  32. 32. Using the word excellence is a way of saying something is being or has been done
  33. 33. Using the word excellence is a way of using words that are neither true nor false
  34. 34. Using the word excellence is a way of obscuring the facts of the matter that should be discussed
  35. 35. “[The purpose of bullshit] is to impress the listener and the reader with words that communicate that […]something is being or has been done, words that are neither true nor false, and so obscure the facts of the matter being discussed” Harry Frankfurt
  36. 36. Impact “excellence” becomes a performance
  37. 37. Impact …performance of “excellence”
  38. 38. Impact …in the place of excellent performance
  39. 39. Excellence…
  40. 40. Excellence… …is contextual
  41. 41. Excellence… …is confused
  42. 42. Excellence… …is bullshit
  43. 43. Excellence… …is dangerous
  44. 44. …is a Neo-colonial Agenda Excellence…
  45. 45. Excellence… …is a Neo-colonial Agenda
  46. 46. …in a post-colonial context Knowledge production…
  47. 47. …for international profile Knowledge production…
  48. 48. …for local problem solving Knowledge production…
  49. 49. …for absorptive capacity Knowledge production…
  50. 50. …for Keynesian economics Knowledge production…
  51. 51. …is resource intensive Knowledge production…
  52. 52. …needs to be done well Knowledge production…
  53. 53. What does it mean for it… …to be done well?
  54. 54. Is there local capacity to tell if… …it is done well?
  55. 55. This is a classical …post-colonial analysis
  56. 56. Excellence… …is a Neo-colonial Agenda
  57. 57. Excellence… …in its implementation is new
  58. 58. Excellence… …in its implementation is new …with new models and new actors
  59. 59. Excellence… …in its implementation is new …with new models and new actors …and new forms of structural bias
  60. 60. 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 % contributor to mortality #ofSAWoSArticles2013-18 Stroke Diabetes Heart Disease Lower Respiratory Infection Diarrhoea Road Injury
  61. 61. 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 % contributor to mortality #ofWoSArticles2013-18 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 0 20 40 HIV Stroke Diabetes Heart Disease Lower Respiratory Infection Diarrhoea Road Injury
  62. 62. …is a Neo-colonial Agenda Excellence… …and what we can do about it
  63. 63. …change the rhetoric In the abstract…
  64. 64. …change the rhetoric In the abstract… …‘qualities’ (plural) in the place of excellence
  65. 65. …build institutions In the ‘this is hard’ basket… …and culture
  66. 66. …make flexibility a key In the pragmatic, short term… requirement in choices …enabling capacity building
  67. 67. …lead the world In the aspirational, longer term…
  68. 68. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% HIV Stroke Diabetes HeartDisease Lowerrespiratory infections Diarrhoea Roadinjury % OA South Africa vs Netherlands
  69. 69. …lead the world In the aspirational, longer term…
  70. 70. …lead the world In the aspirational, longer term… …back to where we should be
  71. 71. @cameronneylon http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0068-716X

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